Photos by Sue Hudelson
“It feels like a rubber band snapping on you,” Warren Celario, the manager at Maui Paintball, tells nervous newbies. He should know: When the match begins, Celario gets splattered right off, but no worries. “I know I’m going to get hit — that’s part of the fun. When you see online videos, the guys at the national level are getting hit almost every game.”
Since it was first played in New Hampshire in 1981, team paintball has grown into a bona fide international sport, with regional competitions, league play and even sponsored pro teams. And while it’s big in Hawai‘i, paintballers on Maui haven’t had a sanctioned place to play since an Upcountry facility closed a few years back. No longer: In 2013 Clint Hansen opened Maui Paintball, and the game is on.
Using his earnings as a real estate agent, Hansen and others built Maui Paintball in Olowalu, near Lahaina. But rather than cut down trees to make an open field, they built nearly 4,500 square feet of multilevel tree forts to create a unique, 3-D arena. “We’re hoping to double that number soon,” says Hansen. “Everybody loves a tree fort, even if you’re getting shot at in one.” The tree forts, along with Celario’s ever-changing maze of concrete obstacles and junked cars, have made the arena increasingly popular.
Maui Paintball now hosts tournaments, girls-only and seniors-only events, and last October it even held a Halloween hayride in which guns mounted on the back of a flatbed truck blasted away at a variety of ghouls popping out from behind the kiawe trees with glow-in-the-dark paintballs. “That was a big hit,” Hansen says, “because nobody’s getting shot”—at least nobody but the guys in the ghoul suits.
On busy weekends Maui Paintball might host as many as three hundred players, though the usual tally is around a hundred. And you don’t have to be a member of a team: “If you show up and just want to play, it could cost about fifty bucks, everything included,” Hansen says. But newbies should just be prepared to be snapped by what feels like a lot of rubber bands.